Fate of Calais Jungle children highlighted in new film

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The plight of children left behind when the Calais Jungle refugee camp closed down in 2016 is explored in a new documentary by a filmmaker from Goldsmiths, University of London.

Sue Clayton with some of the Calais children

'Calais Children: A Case to Answer' is a 60-minute documentary by Sue Clayton, film director and Professor of Film and Television at Goldsmiths. The film will feature in a series of events as part of World Refugee Week (19-25 June) including screenings at Goldsmiths and Westminster University.

When the Calais camp was shut in October 2016 over 1,900 unaccompanied minors were left stranded. Despite many of these children having a legal case to enter the UK they endured months of delays and denials from the UK Government and were finally abandoned in France with no support. The film follows these young people over the months since they left the Jungle and also includes interviews with those supporting their cases.

Ahead of its premiere, the film was featured on Channel 4 News (20 June) as it presents key evidence which supports a current challenge being brought against the Home Office by the charity Help Refugees in the High Court. The Channel 4 news report includes an extract of the film and an interview with Lord Alf Dubs, who authored the Dubs Amendment to bring vulnerable children to safety in the UK.

On 23 June, at a private event in the Inns of Court, Sue Clayton and Lord Dubs will present the film to an audience of court judges, barristers, solicitors and NGOs, to assess the UK Government’s attempts to close down the Dubs Amendment – a legal route for lone refugee children – that is forcing them into desperate circumstances and consider what can be done to improve the situation.

Sue said: “I was shocked when I first went to the Calais jungle and found that no-one was registering or documenting the unaccompanied chidden. This camp is 15 minutes from the UK border at Calais, but the UK Government was not interested, even though many of the children had a legal right to proceed to the UK. With the camp about to be razed last October, I felt I had no choice but to bring this to public attention.”

She arranged for a team of human rights lawyers from Duncan Lewis solicitors and social workers from Social Workers Without Borders to work with her to register a large number of the children and get them legal representation. After the current court action which challenges the Home Office’s legal right to close down the Dubs clause, the team’s case “ZS and Others” (brought on behalf of 37 children found in the Jungle in dire need and who should have qualified for UK protection), will be next in the High Court.

As a consultant for ITV and Channel 4 News, Sue managed to get the story highlighted on the national news and said: “The fact the news channels want to run it, is a hopeful sign that the public too care about this issue, and don’t want to see children caught in the middle of the political fight between the UK and France over our border."

Extracts from the film will be shown at Sanctuary in the Arts, Friends Meeting House London (21 June), and at the Borders, Walls and Bans Symposium, Goldsmiths (22 June). The full film will also be shown at the Borders and Boundaries: Territories, Technologies and Transgressions conference, Goldsmiths (26 June) and at the Rights and Might conference Westminster University (22 June).

Yemane from Eritrea, one of those featured in the Calais Children film: "I don't have any money or family to help"